Canola / Rapeseed Oil Info

Rapeseed Oil / Canola Oil

Rapeseed Oil / Canola Oil – Lighting the Way and Feeding Humanity

Description of Canola Oil / Rapeseed Oil

Coining the term canola (CANadian Oil Low Acid), The Western Canadian Oilseed Crushers Association developed this trademark product in its current form. Some countries still refer to the plant and seed as rapeseed. The oil drawn from the seed of the edible rape/ plant, pronounced Rapp, carries the plant name brassica napus L. This plant evolved as a food and fuel source found growing wild in North America and Europe. The rapeseed oil plant grew wild throughout the European continent early in human civilization, with first writings of the use of this essential weed from the mustard family, during the 13th century, according to Purdue University.

From Sowing to Serving – History Past and Present

The oil from the plant and seed is abundant, offering a historic cooking and a long lasting illumination tool. Due to the bitter taste and toxicity of the rapeseed oil, it was used as a fuel and illumination source. During World War II, this plant oil lubricated marine engines. Prior to the development of the combustion engine, the oil of the plant was common motor oil. During the era of steam-powered engines, rapeseed oil was an effective machinery lubricant. The vegetable oil did not require additives to enhance performance as petroleum products. Over time, however, the vegetable oil coagulated. Petroleum-based motor oil developed in the 1900’s, required additives and was toxic to the environment but petroleum replaced rapeseed oil. Technological advances in green technology in the 21st century are reverting to the use of biofuel and lubricants such as vegetable oil fuels because these products produce less carbon footprint then petroleum byproduct motor oil and gasoline. This versatile plant from the mustard family grew wild, early in our civilizations’ development. Initially used as fuel due to its bitter taste and toxicity in large quantities, the rapeseed was selectively bred in a natural environment to reduce the bitterness and toxicity. The current plant, the canola plant is no longer technically the rapeseed plant. The altered canola seed was milled or ground to created meal, mush, stews mixtures and unleavened breads. Canola oil has a high protein value.

As part of the American and European diet, the polyunsaturated fatty acid in canola oil can reduce cholesterol in the blood stream. In American homes, the seed is not in great demand. Canola oil is a common cooking and frying oil, added to baking recipes. The seed is ground for breads and eaten as seed in European and Middle Eastern countries. The high protein and polyunsaturated fat values, in addition to the high-yield, make the seed a valuable food source in famine stricken countries.

Is Canola Oil or Rapeseed Oil Dangerous?

Prior to its selective breeding, rapeseed’s high concentration of erucic acid was toxic to animals and humans, in high doses. Ingesting rapeseed oil in its original form caused liver damage in animal laboratory studies. The process of selective breeding reduced its bitter taste and toxicity. The original oil held high levels of chlorophyll that gave the oil a green tint. Selective breeding, rigorous testing and product development over several decades created a palatable, healthy oil and seed with low concentrations of the glucosinolates found in erucic acid. Researchers in Canada rigorously tested the hybrid canola to ensure that levels of erucic acid, harmful to the human body in high doses, were decreased significantly in canola oil and seed.

Rapeseed oil used in industrial settings is no longer the same product used by our earliest ancestors. Canadian researchers determined that if toxic levels of glucosinolates found in erucic acid leeched into waterways it could damage the environment. Even the motor oil, lubricant, bio fuel and cosmetic additive are now environmentally safe.

Properties and Uses of Canola Oil / Rapeseed Oil

Motor oils, lubricants and biofuel are identified as rapeseed oil by the green hue. Rapeseed oil is preferred for marine engines because it maintains its composition in varying water temperatures. The altered rapeseed plant provides oils, lubricants, biofuel and additives for cosmetics. Other uses for rapeseed oil include candles, newspaper inks and lipstick. Rapeseed oil as a biofuel has lower carbon emissions and is a better fuel for the environment than petroleum based products. As a cosmetic additive, it is not harmful to the skin and carries fewer carcinogens than petroleum products.

Although rapeseed oil is not directly ingested, its value to air and surrounding environment is clean and natural technology. Rapeseed oil does not require drilling, reduction of its ingredients with harsh chemical processes. The Rapeseed plant grows in fields with low saturation levels of herbicides and burns cleaner than petroleum-based gasoline, lubricants and motor oils. In addition, petroleum cannot claim that it enhances air quality or fits naturally into the environment as rapeseed. Rapeseed oil in plant form exchanges oxygen and carbon dioxide as other plants in the environment helps to maintain soil qualities and provides food and pollen for birds and insects.

With selective breeding the rapeseed plant produced the canola plant, canola oil and canola seed. Of the varieties of rapeseed converted to canola seed, 11 strains meet the qualifications for canola oil. Determined to be safe by the Western Canadian Oilseed Crushers Association in 1979, the selectively bred canola oil gained notoriety as healthy, mild tasting cooking oil. The United States consumes most of the canola oil produced by the plant, feeding canola seed as a nutritious food supplement for livestock feed. Canola seed human consumers include Mexico, China, Japan, Europe and Pakistan. Canola seed is ground for use in stews, breads, baked goods, meal, mush and mixed with milk as a food supplement for famine torn countries. Canola oil is used for cooking, grilling, dipping sauces but also as carrier oil for bath salts, bath oils, exfoliants products and a healthy food additive.

Canola Oil / Rapeseed Oil Production & Storage

The Lovely Yellow Flower

The Brassica napus plant known as rapeseed is a cousin to the mustard seed family. This naturally altered plant grows wild, producing a small yellow flower. Growing in fall and spring, the rapeseed plant produces industrial oil and lubricants. Although rapeseed in its natural form is not palatable, it too was selectively bred to reduce high levels of erucic acid that might harm the environment.

The original rapeseed plant is the parent of the selectively bred canola seed from which oil is extracted. This registered trademark name is synonymous with the common household cooking oil. With the trademark name unrecognized in Middle Eastern, Asian and African cultures, the plant is known as rapeseed and rapeseed oil despite its very different composition.

The seeds sold, grown and manufactured in Europe and Canada; grow best in this moist soil with its cold and wet environment. While a seedling, the canola plant is vulnerable to destruction by the flea beetle. Once mature, it produces three to five flowers on each stem and seedpods within the flower. When the seed pods yellow and the stem becomes brownish red, the canola plant is ready for harvest. The seeds are dried, the oil extracted and cleansed of hull or debris prior to manufacturing. Some of the oil from this hybrid of the original rapeseed plant is fed to livestock to increase protein in their diet. It is grown as fodder for free-range swine and poultry because it is high in polyunsaturated fatty acids. Canola seed yields several tons through the growing season and into the winter. This high-yield feeds cattle, pigs, chickens, turkeys, and other small free-range fowl. University of Wisconsin, Alternative Field Crop Manual notes, that European countries account for 17% of the production of rapeseed oil/ canola oil followed by 15% Canadian manufacturing. A significant portion of the cooking oil consumed in America is imported from other countries. The United States produces less than 1% of the canola oil it uses.

The rapeseed, manufactured, sold and grown in Europe and Canada as well, is still in use as the primary oil, bio fuel, and lubricant in commercially sold products. The seedpods produce 40 percent oil that requires no chemical additives. The seed is crush and strained to remove the oil and plant debris. Manufacturers, however, are careful to avoid cross breeding of the original rapeseed oil with the modern version canola oil.

Rapeseed oil has a long shelf life but can congeal after months of storage. Canola oil and canola seed also has a long shelf life; the seed must be stored in sealed containers so that it does not attract insects. Canola oil, tightly capped and stored in cool and dark cupboards, will maintain freshness for several years, after which time, it will smell of rancid.

Types of Canola Oil and Canola Seed

From the Garden to the Kitchen

There are 11 plant varieties of Brassica napus, known by its common name, the oilseed, canola. Remember, once these selectively bred varieties are naturally altered, they become canola plants and canola oil. Each seed from the canola plant synthesizes 40 percent oil from each plant. Specific manufacturers own these selectively bred distinct varieties. Can-Alta Seeds Ltd, Red Deer, Alberta, Canada, owns Andor-canola seed; develop in 1981 by The University of Alberta, Canada. Another variety, developed by Svalof A. B. in Sweden is Global-canola seed. Bonis and Company Ltd., of Ontario, Canada, distributes this variety of seed. Hyola 70-canola seed is a hybrid developed by Contiseed Ltd. of Canada, marketed to the United States in 1988.

Some varieties of the oilseed canola entered the market specifically for their resistance to herbicides. Licensed in 1984, OAC Triton-canola, tolerant of several varieties of herbicides, was created at the University of Guelph, Ontario, Canada. Along with Tribute-canola and Westar-canola, selective breeding for herbicides allows growth in multi-crop fields that require herbicide sprays. Tribute-canola plant, developed by Agriculture Canada in 1985, contains greater canola oil quality than OAC Triton-canola. Westar-canola has a greater seed yield than Tribute-canola or OAC Triton-canola, created by Agriculture Canada and Licensed in 1982. The production of Westar seed is permitted only in Canada. Topas-canola developed and distributed by Bonis and Company Ltd., Canada carries the highest yield of canola oil of any variety of the oilseed.

Other varieties such as Tower-canola and Regent-canola were licensed in 1974 and 1977 respectively, and created through the University of Manitoba, Canada. Candle-canola, licensed in 1977, was also developed through Agriculture Canada. One variety of Brassica campestris, another cousin of the mustard family is known as Tobin-canola. This specific plant carries the highest seed yield of any of the oilseed variety, According to The University of Wisconsin’s Cooperative Extension. With little plant waste, the stem, seed and flower produce a hearty spring and winter dense crop that resists weed growth.


Advantages and Disadvantages of Canola Oil over Other Vegetable Oils

With canola leading the way in yield and cost effectiveness, it often receives the least credit for its nutritional value, easy access and affordability. Although canola oil is more expensive to grow and manufacture, it provides the highest yield with the greatest health benefit, second only to safflower oil. Canola oil is devoid of flavor or odor and does not enhance the flavor of cooked foods. Sesame, peanut, sunflower oil and olive oil are flavorful, aromatic and essential for specialty dishes. However, adding sesame seed, peanuts and other spices, canola oil is transformed into a healthy alternative for saturated and trans fats in vegetable and peanut oils. With the highest omega 3, 6 and 9 fatty acid content of corn, peanut, sesame and other vegetable oils, canola oil is more cost effective and may even save consumers money on purchases of omega fatty acid supplements that are included in their cooking, baking and bathing oil. Read more about other oils that contain Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids: safflower oilflaxseed oil, coconut oil, macadamia oil.

Rapeseed Oil / Canola Oil – Lighting the Way and Feeding Humanity | Description of Canola Oil / Rapeseed Oil | From Sowing to Serving – History Past and Present | Is Canola Oil or Rapeseed Oil Dangerous? | Properties and Uses of Canola Oil / Rapeseed Oil | Canola Oil / Rapeseed Oil Production & Storage | Types of Canola Oil and Canola Seed | Advantages and Disadvantages of Canola Oil over Other Vegetable Oils

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